Feature Article of Saturday, 18 August 2012
Columnist: Adade, Anthony
, It Is Made In Ghana. In Memory Of President John Atta Mills
The report in the New York Times online edition on July 24, 2012 was that “John Atta Mills, the president of Ghana, died on Tuesday at a military hospital in the capital, Accra, five months short of finishing his first term in office. He was 68”. Ghanaians and well-wishers from around the world have mourned the man, and reflected on his legacy. This is my reflection on my last encounter with Mr. Atta Mills while he was a candidate for president. It happened in Worcester, Massachusetts, a place where many Ghanaians have called home for many decades. I, like many of the Ghanaians in this city, came here to further our education. Things were going great. The weather was nice. On Main Street there were many Ghanaian strolling leisurely in their colorful African outfits. I was feeling proud to be a Ghanaian. I met the then new mayor of Worcester for the first time. She came with her entourage of Worcester political elite. And most of the usual Ghanaian socialites were also in attendance. This was the first time candidate John Evans Atta Mills was visiting the city. It was a beautiful summer afternoon and Atta Mills was to be honored by the city of Worcester that day.
Though I did not have the privilege of knowing President Mills on a personal basis, I knew him casually long before as a brilliant professor who can also play soccer. He never said much, but was always very loud on the soccer field. On this day, I came to meet the man who wanted to be president of Ghana. It was in an auditorium at Clark University on Main Street, across the street from my church, the St. Peter’s Cathedral.
I arrived early and found a few NPP comrades outside waiting. So I stopped to chat with them. While mingling with local party faithful’s someone came and asked that we go in and take our seats. I sent a message back indicating we are not to be rushed, until we acknowledge everyone present. It is customary that party leaders acknowledge party faithful’s at public gatherings. It had nothing to do with the party affiliation of the speaker or those assembled. That is just protocol. Finally, we went inside and took our seats.
And that is when something very disconcerting happened. Some of the people assembled in the hall could not believe Worcester NPP chairman showed up to hear Atta Mills, an NDC candidate. What they did not know was that there was a mutual respect between the leadership of the two parties. We may have different political persuasions but in the end, we are all Ghanaians. We must all have a level of maturity that allows us to put the interest of Ghana above our own feelings. Otherwise, the country is headed for disaster.
Somehow, the decision had been made that the NPP group will not be seated together. I could not believe it but some kind folks, realizing what was going on, decided to vacate their seats so as to allow as many of us as possible to sit together. Then came the kicker. There was a young lady distributing bottles of water to attendees. When she got to where we were, an associate extended his hand in anticipation but the lady ignored him. She passed us all by without offering us water.
We have to be careful not to play politics with the future of Ghana. It is okay to harbor different views and beliefs but, in the end, we are all Ghanaians. Now, I did not know who she was and can’t say for sure if she fully understood what had just happened. But I knew the man we had all come to see, and I knew he did not appreciate the incident.
Like everyone else in the auditorium, I pretended not to have noticed and continue quietly to listen to the speaker. After his speech, Mr. Mills opened up the floor for questions. I raised my hand politely and was acknowledged by the professor. My question was, “Professor Mills, what is your agenda for Ghana? Can you give us an outline of what you see as an agenda for growth and prosperity in Ghana?” And the following was his answer, “The unnecessary politicization of every little matter would not help our motherland and if we don't put a stop to it, one of these days we would wake up to realize that even kenkey would be labeled NDC or NPP and when we get to that stage, Ghana would be tinkering with civil strife and it would mean that we would not have anything to call our country”.
I am not sure whether this was an attempt to address what just happened but I must say that I do indeed agree with the general premise of his answer. Our democratic institutions are still fairly young. In order for our fragile democracy to flourish, we must discourage party or political extremists. What is currently going on in the United States, with the emergence of the Tea Party and others, should serve as a warning to Ghanaians. While I disagreed with President Mills on methodology since I saw no evidence of any attempt to rectify the situation during his administration, I agree that we have to avoid divisions at all cost. He was a man who believed in what is good in all of us, and we should all celebrate that, regardless of party affiliation. I believe like many Ghanaians that President Atta Mills meant well for the country, and for that reason alone I hail him.
I commend the new President, John Dramani Mahama and his leadership for the smooth transition. He has reciprocated what Nana Akuffo-Addo and the NPP did some three years ago. Though Nana Akuffo-Addo won the most votes in the first round election, in the runoff that followed, as is the rule in Ghanaian presidential elections, Mr. Atta Mills won with a little over 50 percent of the votes. Nana Akuffo-Addo raised the level of Ghana’s socio-political credibility among international observers when he accepted the results peacefully.
Finally, if Ghana is going to be restored to her glory days, we need to emphasize education for the youth, access to proper heath care, as well as fight crime and corruption. This agenda will also create an environment guaranteed to attract foreign investment. As we say good bye to President John Evans Atta Mills, let us focus our attention and collective energies on rebuilding Ghana. May he rest in perfect peace!